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Three Little Kittens


By Miranda

The improvident three little kittens of nursery rhyme fame mislaid their mittens. But what exactly did they lose? Something that enclosed the paw would be cosy, though there would need to be space for extending the claws.

When I think of mittens, I see the sort of woolly, or these days, polar fleece, pieces of hand-wear with two sections, one for the thumb and the other for the four fingers. Apparently the four-finger configuration allows the fingers to share warmth and the single section for the fingers has less surface area and thus loses less heat than four individually clad fingers - this last is called a glove.

Certainly the sportswear items for skiers and trekkers are mittens when they have the two-section configuration, though they can be made in anything from the latest high-tech materials to the traditional reindeer or seal.

But, and this may be either a generational or a geographical variation (all right, I asked my mother, not a huge sample, I agree), some people see mittens as having two open-ended sections, one for the thumb and the other for the four fingers. Indeed, if such a garment is made of lace or delicate crochet, it seems to be invariably referred to as a mitten. Victorian ladies wore mittens. Women who actually ventured outdoors wore gloves.

So where does that leave the workers in fingerless gloves? These should have individual sections for the thumb and each of the four fingers, but the sections end just beyond the knuckles, or maybe just after the first finger-joint. However, when a fingerless glove is made with fine or openwork fabric it seems to become a mitten again.

Then there are mitts. They can be shaped like mittens and insulated enough to pick up hot pots in the kitchen, or be shaped like gloves but with the individual finger-covers joined together to protect the hand... ah, compulsory softball - how I remember!

What are 'mittens' to you?


12 Responses to

Three Little Kittens

August 19, 2010 at 6:59 PM

I have all my life wondered what actually is meant by "mittens" in the rhyme. I still cannot work it out. I even examined my cat's paws to see how they could be made.When I was very very young, that is. I can only imagine a sort of sack, with elastic, or pull ribbon at the wrist (ankle? leg?) Mostly, I just think of ordinary grey or brindled cats with white feet. No socks or gloves or such. But the only way they could lose those, would be to get them muddy?

kiararei said:
August 20, 2010 at 11:40 AM

You could get into a right pickle trying to decipher nursery rhymes and this one is no different. It's sad though that a lot of the stories behind them have been lost over time as it would be interesting to know the stories behind them all

kragzy said:
August 20, 2010 at 2:03 PM

I don't know anything about cat's mittens (and being a cat-hater I don't really care) but I do know that drovers used to, and perhaps still do, make leather shoes (more like moccasins) for their sheep dogs. Harsh Aussie seeds like cat-spurs and bathurst burrs can cause a dog a lot of pain and make him/her incapable of work. [Re cats - please forward your abusive responses care of this address! ;-) ]

thekoala said:
August 20, 2010 at 5:01 PM

I think the author chose mittens out of desperation to find a rhyme for kittens or perhaps the kittens would curl up and sleep on the family members mittens when they weren't being used. Mittens to me are the protective gloves worn when using the punch bag/speed ball etc at the gym.

Terriki said:
August 22, 2010 at 10:46 AM

Mitten covered hands, clasped around a steaming cup of hot chocolate immediately comes to my mind. Warm,snug,cosy, and comfortable.

August 24, 2010 at 5:00 PM

I remember my scottish nana telling me that all nursery rhymes were a sort of 'moral lesson" in the days of home education in Europe, the lesson mostly aimed at the very young as the rhymes tend to be easy to remember. So in this case, Mittens & Kittens-take care to not loose your belongings. Cat haters need to learn all good comes to those who love all creatures on earth.

kragzy said:
August 24, 2010 at 8:47 PM

Hi bushdweller, I love all creatures especially those that are native to an area. Australia is so rich in its fauna - precious little marsupials and beautiful native birds. So how do you think I feel when the cat next door regularly kills the rainbow lorrikeets, eastern rosellas and baby corellas around my backyard. Everytime I dispose of another bird's remains, thoughtfully strewn across my back deck by that wretched Tom, I wish I could screw its little neck. Cats are introduced predators that are steadily decimating the joyous bounty of Australia's native birds and animals. The only way to stop a cat from killing (which they do to satisfy a powerful instinctive drive) is to keep it locked inside 24/7/365. Sorry to sound so bitter, but I really don't like those precious beautiful birds and marsupials being killed!

August 25, 2010 at 8:51 AM

Hi Kragzy, thanks for the comment. I've had cats (and other animals) all my life of 59 years. My cats are house bound as I live in the bush. The owners of cats are responsible for their behaviour. I am on your side with that. Ringing the RSPCA, instead of the cats neck (or the owner) to get onto the owner would be the way to go, and persist with it, I did. One person can make the difference. I trap cats and send them off to the council. If they are 'chipped' the owner has to pay big fines to get them back. And all cat owners KNOW that their moggies hunt, most will not acknowledge this though. Anyway this is susposed to be about 'mittens and kittens' nursery rhymes!

August 25, 2010 at 12:09 PM

Kragzy, I have had cats all my life (yes I did have them spayed) and I have found plenty of mice and rats deposited as offerings. Never once native wildlife. I have been putting out seed for the birds for decades, get lorikeets too, even in a suburb of Melbourne. If the federal government would make it a law to have all dogs and cats desexed (if not actually used for breeding purposes) it would almost negate the threat to wildlife. Of course, the existing strays will have to be dealt with, especially in country areas. Sorry all, this has been bugging me for decades, about spaying all but official breeding dogs and cats.

August 25, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Hi Liesl Grimm, AGREED, but for all those who in the past have lobbied governments for that law, have just been put off. Governments put it in the 'tivial or too hard basket'The State RSPCA laws are not strong enough to force it to happen. Vets can only recommend pets to be desexed. But most people just see the $$$$$ it would cost, and put it off. I've caught many a wild cat in my traps, the local council although gratefull, have difficulty dealing with them, and I'm sure they shrink when I call.

kragzy said:
August 25, 2010 at 4:54 PM

Hi BD and LG, You're both better than me - I feel sorry for the family next door, they are a struggling young couple with two bubs and, other than the cat, really good neighbours. So I'm a wimp! (Not really the cranky old man that I sounded like before). I'm pretty sure it's desexed, but it still prowls around every night when they put it out. A little cat flu virus wouldn't go astray... Anyway, back to mittens and kittens folks, let's lighten up!

August 26, 2010 at 8:02 AM

Hi ALL, after a round table discussion, we looked up the rhyme in wiki. Even has the tune. Made for a fun moment. Cheers.